The stability of Empires depends to a considerable degree on policies of soft power, which contributes to internal cohesion and makes friends out of near and far neighbours who imitate and desire the culture (religion, language, habitus, technology and science) of the imperial neighbour. Standardization is an important but underappreciated imperial practice of soft power, often deliberately used or promoted. Nevertheless, it is equally often the outcome of processes beyond political control that inadvertently develop their unifying function. In our context, the term "standards" primarily refers to "de facto standards" rather than "norms" which are considered "de jure standards". These standards can impact all aspects of human activity, including cultural phenomena, economic activities, and technical systems. Therefore, standards have always been a crucial requirement for managing large territories, trade, and social interactions.
As in any empire “imperial” standards are widely accepted throughout the Byzantine realm and have even spread beyond political borders into what is known as the "Byzantine Commonwealth". The range of standards includes among others weights and measures, common techniques in architecture, craftsmanship, art, and cuisine, as well as common practices and rites of social communication and religious celebration. Considering standards provides a means of exploring the political and social impact of cultural phenomena from both material and spiritual realms. By focussing on the topic of standardization and its role as instrument of soft power various source materials and different methodological appoches can be matched under an overarching aim.
The aim of the conference is to delve into the role of seemingly insignificant phenomena that are often overlooked in the formation of societies and to emphasize the importance of human-object relationships in the context of the Byzantine Empire as a political entity. The conference brings together experts from various historical and archaeological fields to explore the phenomenon of imperial standards in Byzantium from an inter- and multidisciplinary perspective.
With this conference, our primary goal is to focus on three overarching questions:
- To what extend does the Byzantine Empire ease or advance the spreading of standardization processes?
- How does standardization contribute to the consolidation of the Byzantine Empire?
- Does the search for and examination of standardization provide a heuristic instrument for a better understanding of imperial integration?
To participate online, please send an e-mail to: anke.dingler(at)leiza.de
The conference is organized by Stefan Albrecht and Benjamin Fourlas